Palo Alto is a vibrant city located in the heart of Silicon Valley. The city is home to many high-tech companies, as well as Stanford University – the iconic university molding the minds of the next generation of scientific and tech innovators.
Palo Alto is more than 100 years old and is named after a majestic 1000-year-old coastal redwood tree along San Francisquito Creek.
Palo Alto has a unique blend of commercial and residential areas, all anchored by a lively downtown with shops, restaurants, and cafes.
The city is also a great place to enjoy the outdoors, with plenty of parks and open spaces to explore, while a great collection of museums and art galleries are sure to give you food for thought.
Always bustling with energetic young minds who flock to the city in search of the next disruptive technology or scientific breakthrough, Palo Alto is at the center of one of the most consequential regions on earth.
Whether you’re visiting for business or pleasure, Palo Alto is a great place to experience all that Northern California has to offer.
Craving more Bay Area adventures? Don’t miss these posts!
- 31 Top things to do in Berkeley, California
- 21 Best Things to Do in Fremont, California
- 21 Top things to do in San Ramon, California
- 31 Top Things to Do in Pleasanton, California, for fun
- 40 Top Things to Do in San Jose – The Ultimate Bucket List
- 33 Top Things to do and see in Los Gatos, California
- 46 Top Things to Do in Half Moon Bay, California
- 55 Top things to do in Napa Valley Besides Wine Tasting
- 50 Top Things To Do in Point Reyes, California
- San Francisco at Night: The Best Things to Do With Family
- Discover 80 Best Non-Touristy Things to Do in San Francisco
1. Visit Hewlett Packard Garage
Address: 367 Addison Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
The Hewlett Packard garage in Palo Alto is more than just a historic landmark – it’s a symbol of Silicon Valley’s humble beginnings.
It’s where Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started their company in 1939. In the early days of the tech boom, HP was one of the first companies to set up shop in the area, and the garage where they worked became known as the birthplace of Silicon Valley.
Today, the garage has been turned into a museum, and visitors can see firsthand how HP changed the world of technology.
Even if you’re not a tech geek, the Hewlett-Packard garage is definitely worth a visit – it’s a fascinating glimpse into Silicon Valley’s past.
2. Explore the world-renowned Stanford University campus
Address: 450 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305
The campus of Stanford University is a beautiful and inspiring place to explore. It is home to some of the world’s leading researchers and thinkers.
The Main Quadrangle at Stanford University is the oldest part of campus and one of its most iconic features. With its spacious grounds and beautiful architecture, the Stanford campus is a truly special place.
And there’s plenty to do and see on campus, from touring the Stanford Museum to attending a performance at Memorial Auditorium.
So whether you’re a Stanford student or just visiting the area, check out the Stanford campus!
3. Spend some time in the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
Address: 328 Lomita Dr, Stanford, CA 94305
The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University is an essential destination for art lovers visiting Palo Alto and the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Center houses an impressive collection of art from a variety of periods and cultures, as well as constantly changing special exhibitions.
The permanent collection includes works by European masters such as Monet and Rodin, American icons like Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol, and a wide variety of Asian, African, and Latin American artists.
Whether you’re a seasoned art aficionado or are simply looking to expand your horizons, the Cantor Arts Center is sure to have something to interest you.
And best of all, this is one of the free things you can enjoy in the San Francisco Bay Area! So make sure to add the Cantor Arts Center to your list of must-see attractions when visiting Stanford University.
4. See the Rodin Sculpture Garden at Stanford University
Address: 28 Lomita Dr, Stanford, CA 94305
Located on the campus of Stanford University, the Rodin Sculpture Garden is one of the most beautiful places to see art in the Bay Area.
The garden features a variety of works by Auguste Rodin, including The Thinker, The Kiss, and The Gates of Hell.
Whether you’re a student at Stanford or just visiting the Bay Area, make sure to add the Rodin Sculpture Garden to your list of must-see destinations. You will love being surrounded by stunning works of art.
A quick tip: Indulge in a cup of cappuccino at Tootsie’s cafe in Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University.
Timing: Wednesday – Sunday, 11 am until 5 pm
5. Visit the Hoover Tower Exhibit Galleries and Lou Henry Hoover Observation Deck
Address: 550 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305
The Hoover Institution was founded in 1919 as a special collections library at Stanford University by Herbert Hoover, former US President Herbert Hoover, and a Stanford alumnus.
Hoover Institution Library & Archives at Stanford University today is one of the most renowned public-policy research centers that contains some of the modern world’s most famous material on war, revolution, and peace.
The Hoover Tower Exhibit Galleries and Lou Henry Hoover Observation Deck are worth a visit if you’re in the Palo Alto area and exploring Stanford University.
Exhibit Galleries feature a variety of interesting exhibits on a variety of topics, while the Observation Deck offers stunning views of the Stanford University campus and the surrounding Bay Area and includes a historic Belgian carillon.
So if you’re looking for a fun and informative activity, visit the Hoover Tower, one of the most iconic landmarks on the Stanford University campus!
PS: To see the exhibitions, free reservations may be made online or onsite. The observation deck is only open to Stanford Affiliates. Visitors must bring a valid Stanford ID and may have up to 3 guests. Reservations are for 30-minute time slots, and everyone must have their own ticket.
6. Explore Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden at Stanford University
Address: 476 Lomita Dr, Stanford, CA 94305
Nestled in the corner of the Stanford campus is the Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden, a hidden gem that is well worth a visit.
The garden, crafted on-site at Stanford by artists from Papua New Guinea, contains intricate wood and stone carvings of people, animals, and mythical beings.
These illustrations tell clan stories and recount creation myths.
The sculptures are fascinating, and the gardens provide a tranquil oasis from the hustle and bustle of campus life. The Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden is open to the public during daylight hours, and there is no charge for admission.
7. Visit Hanna House at Stanford University and admire the Architecture
Address: 737 Frenchmans Rd, Stanford, CA 94305
The Hanna House at Stanford University is a National Historic Landmark and a must-see architecture for anyone visiting the area.
Designed and built by famous architect Andrew Lloyd Wright, the Hanna House is considered his best hexagonal, non-rectangular design.
Built-in 1937 for two Stanford professors, Paul and Jean Hanna, the Hanna House is a fascinating piece of architecture that is well worth stopping for a visit.
8. Visit the Stanford Memorial Church
Address: 450 Jane Stanford Way, Bldg 500, Stanford, CA 94305
Stanford Memorial Church is the University’s architectural crown jewel, standing at the center of campus. It was one of the earliest interdenominational churches in the West and is still among the most prominent.
The church was built by Jane Stanford in honor of her late husband, Leland Stanford. Interestingly, the University was founded by senator Leland Stanford and Jane Stanford as a memorial to their son, Leland Jr.
9. Visit the Palo Alto Art Center
Address: 1313 Newell Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94303
Palo Alto is home to a thriving arts scene, and the Palo Alto Art Center is a great place to experience it.
The center offers a variety of exhibits and programs throughout the year, making it a great destination for art lovers of all ages.
The center’s main gallery space is always free to visit, featuring rotating contemporary art exhibitions. In addition, the art center offers classes and workshops for both children and adults.
Whether you’re an experienced artist or someone who appreciates art, the Palo Alto Art Center is worth a visit.
10. Take a walk at Baylands Nature Preserve
Address: 2775 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303
If you’re looking for a change of scenery and want to take a break from crowds and technology, Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve is the perfect place to relax and recharge.
With over 1900 acres of marshland, the Baylands is the largest remaining salt marsh and mudflat habitat on the west coast. The location is perfect for birding enthusiasts all year long.
There’s nothing quite like breathing in the fresh air and watching the sunset over the Bay as you unwind from your busy day-to-day life.
Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or an adventurous hike, the Baylands Nature Preserve will offer something for everyone. Take a trip to the Baylands Nature Preserve and commune with nature.
11. Visit Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo
Address: 1451 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94301
If you are looking for a fun and educational activity for the whole family, look no further than the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo!
This unique zoo features netted aviaries where animals roam freely and safely with visitors. Kids will love exploring the different exhibits, which include the Tree House, Meerkat Desert, Raccoon Creek, Cichlid Lake, Rabbit Meadow, Tortoise Savannah, and Wildlife Circle.
They’ll also get to see flamingos, macaws, ducks, and many other unique birds up close. And there’s even more fun in the play area, where children can climb in a net above the zoo and explore an underwater tunnel.
The Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo is also a great place to learn about natural phenomena like gravity, inertia, force, motion, balance, energy, states of matter, electricity, and magnetism.
Kids can play with simple machines, make time-lapse movies, and cooperate with other kids to move balls through mazes.
The Museum has an extensive natural history collection that kids can explore, and there is a special place just for babies.
With so much to see and do, the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo is sure to be a hit with everyone in the family!
12. Watch a show at Palo Alto Children’s Theatre
Address: 1305 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94301
The Palo Alto Children’s Theatre is a great place to take the kids for an afternoon of fun. The theatre offers a variety of performances throughout the year, ranging from musicals to comedies to dramas.
And because it’s geared towards children, you can be sure that the shows will be appropriate for all ages.
The Palo Alto Children’s Theatre is a great way to introduce your kids to the world of live theatre, and it’s sure to be an enjoyable experience for the whole family.
13. Visit Elizabeth F. Gamble garden
Address: 1431 Waverley St, Palo Alto, CA 94301
The Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden is named after Elizabeth F. Gamble, the granddaughter of Procter & Gamble’s co-founder James Gamble.
Upon her death in 1981 at age ninety-two, she bequeathed her home and garden to the City of Palo Alto. The State of California has recognized it as a Point of Historical Interest.
The Gamble Garden is a free-to-visit public garden. It includes a historic home, a carriage house, and a tearoom.
“Life is simply better in a garden” – this sentence at the entrance of the Gamble Gardens in Palo Alto will make you stop and ponder.
The astounding beauty inside can put a restless mind to rest almost instantly. If you are visiting Palo Alto, especially during March or April, take some time out to take a breath of fresh air amidst the roses, wisteria, camellia, and cherry blossoms.
14. Visit The Museum of American Heritage
Address: 351 Homer Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Visit The Museum of American Heritage to explore the country’s rich history of technological innovation from 1750 to 1950.
This family-friendly museum is located in the historic Williams House in downtown Palo Alto and features a wide variety of exhibits, events, and programs.
You can also view an impressive collection of over 5,000 historic electrical and mechanical artifacts.
So whether you’re a history buff or just curious about how America became a world leader in technology, be sure to check out the Museum of American Heritage on your visit to the Bay Area.
The Museum is free to enter, but a $5 donation per person is recommended.
15. Catch a show at Shoreline Amphitheatre
Address: 1 Amphitheatre Pkwy, Mountain View, CA 94043
Shoreline Amphitheatre is an outdoor amphitheater and a great place to see live music in the Bay Area.
The amphitheater features a variety of different genres of music, and it’s sure to have something for everyone.
Shoreline Amphitheatre is also a great place to catch a sunset, as the amphitheater is located right on the shore of San Francisco Bay.
16. Make an enriching escape to Computer History Museum and Googleplex
Address: 1401 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View, CA 94043
Technology is changing the geography of our lives.
Since you are exploring Palo Alto, the heart of Silicon Valley, it would be interesting to know the long history of technology and its revolutionary impact on the world.
Visit the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, a city located next to Palo Alto, and discover stories and exhibits that inform and inspire or satisfy your curiosity with hands-on activities.
The story of computing is invigorating and is driven by the human passion for tinkering, inventing, and solving difficult problems.
Spend a day here, and you will go back home thinking about human ingenuity. Silicon Valley’s innovative tech culture is built around a belief that Change is Good.
While exploring this museum, think about the changes brought about by technology in every aspect of our lives.
If the pace of change in this modern world we are living in confounds you often, a visit to the Computer History Museum will give you fertile ground to reflect upon many profound things directly related to our lives.
After exploring the Computer History Museum, head over to Googleplex in Mountain View – the corporate headquarters of Google and enjoy a cool sculpture garden!
17. Watch a show at the Stanford Theatre for an enjoyable evening
Address: 221 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
The Stanford Theatre is a historic movie palace located in downtown Palo Alto. The theatre was originally built in 1925 and has been restored to its original glory.
The Stanford Theatre shows classic films from Hollywood’s Golden Age, as well as foreign and independent films.
The theatre also hosts special events, such as Q&As with filmmakers, panel discussions, and film festivals.
18. Relax in the Foothills Nature Preserve
Address: 3300 Page Mill Rd, Los Altos Hills, CA 94022
The Foothills Nature Preserve is a great place to relax and get away from the humdrum of Silicon Valley. This 1,400-acre preserve is home to miles of trails, picturesque views of the Bay Area, and an abundance of wildlife.
Whether you want to take a leisurely stroll or go for a hike, Foothills Nature Preserve is a lovely option. Keep your eyes peeled for deer, coyotes, and bobcats as you explore the chaparral, woodlands, fields, streams, and lake.
19. Hike the Stanford Dish loop trail
Address: 400 Reservoir Rd, Stanford, CA 94305
The Stanford Dish, located in the hills of Stanford University, is much more than just a big dish antenna in the middle of nowhere. It is one of the most recognized landmarks in the Bay Area.
This 150-foot-diameter radio telescope was completed in the 1960s as a joint venture between the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) and the U.S. Air Force.
The Dish was used to probe the scattering properties of Earth’s ionosphere, and when it was completed, it was the third-largest steerable radio telescope in the world.
Today, the Dish is still used for satellite calibrations, spacecraft command and telemetry, and radio astronomy measurements.
Visitors to the Dish can take a self-guided tour of this fascinating facility, and on clear days, you can even see San Francisco in the distance. The Stanford Dish is also a popular hiking trail.
The trail is approximately 3 miles long and features beautiful views of the Bay Area.
The trail is also a great workout, as it includes several steep sections. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or science nerd, visiting the Stanford Dish will surely be a unique and memorable experience.
20. Reserve Tee-Time at Baylands Golf Links
Address: 1875 Embarcadero Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94303
Baylands Golf Links is a public golf course in the Baylands Nature Preserve. The course features 18 holes and offers stunning views of San Francisco Bay.
So if you’re looking for a great place to play golf, be sure to check out Baylands Golf Links.
21. Explore Monte Bello Open Space Preserve
Address: 4301 Page Mill Rd, Los Altos, CA 94022
Monte Bello Open Space Preserve is perched atop the rolling hills of the Santa Clara Valley. It is a great place to hike, bike, or just enjoy the outdoors.
This 3,436-acre preserve is one of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s (Midpen) richest in wildlife and ecosystem diversity.
The preserve encompasses the upper Stevens Creek watershed from Monte Bello Ridge to Skyline Ridge and features rolling grasslands, dense creekside forests, and spectacular vistas.
The preserve shares borders with other open space preserves and parks, allowing visitors many different trip options.
Black Mountain, for example, offers visitors incredible views of Santa Clara Valley and over to Mt. Hamilton.
Whether you’re looking for a short day hike or a longer backpacking trip, Monte Bello Preserve is the perfect destination. So pack your bags and head to this beautiful mountain oasis!
22. Go for a picnic in one of the beautiful urban parks in Palo Alto
Palo Alto is home to many parks. If you are looking for a place with picnic areas, Palo Alto has several great options.
Choose any one of the beautiful urban parks in Palo Alto and enjoy a lovely picnic with friends and family.
- Rinconada Park
Address: 777 Embarcadero Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94303
Rinconada Park is one of Palo Alto’s hidden gems. Although it’s the city’s second oldest park, it feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
The Magic Forest, a stand of towering redwoods, provides a serene and peaceful setting, while the Coast Live Oak, over 200 years old, is a beautiful sight to behold.
Rinconada Park is the perfect place to unwind, relax, and appreciate the beauty of nature.
Facilities: BBQ Grills, Picnic Tables, Drinking Fountains, Wheelchair Access, Tennis Courts, Swimming Pool, Restrooms, Walking Trails, Playgrounds
- Mitchell Park
Address: 600 E Meadow Dr, Palo Alto, CA 94303
Mitchell Park is a 21.4-acre district park located in Palo Alto, California. The park offers a wealth of active recreational opportunities, including the flagship Magical Bridge Playground.
Opened to the public in April 2015, the playground is designed to be inclusive for all ages and abilities.
The playground features a variety of unique amenities, such as sensory gardens, Braille sandboxes, and ramped walkways.
Mitchell Park offers picnic areas, sports fields, courts, and a dog park. Visitors can enjoy stunning views of San Francisco Bay from various points within the park.
Whether you’re looking to explore Silicon Valley’s most innovative playground or want to spend a day outdoors, Mitchell Park is the perfect destination.
Facilities: BBQ Grills, Picnic Tables, Drinking Fountains, Wheelchair Access, Tennis Courts, Pickleball Courts, Water Play Structure, Restrooms, Soccer Fields, Bicycle Trails, Walking Trails, Playgrounds
- Greer Park
Address: 1098 Amarillo Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94303
Greer Park is a 22-acre multipurpose park in Palo Alto, California. The park offers a variety of recreational activities, including basketball, tennis, and skateboarding.
The park also features a playground, picnic tables, and a walking trail. Greer Park is home to the Peninsula’s only public skateboard facility, which opened in 1991.
The tri-bowl skateboard complex is a unique design and was one of the state’s most advanced public facilities when it opened.
Today, Greer Park remains a popular destination for skateboarders from all over Northern California.
Facilities: BBQ Grills, Picnic Tables, Drinking Fountains, Wheelchair Access, Basketball Courts, Baseball / Softball Fields, Restrooms, Soccer Fields, Skate Park, Bicycle Trails, Walking Trails, Playgrounds
23. Watercourse Way Bath House Spa
Address: 165 Channing Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Watercourse Way is a unique bathhouse spa located in the heart of Palo Alto. The spa features a variety of pools, saunas, and private hot tubs. The spa also offers massage services and has a retail store. So if you’re looking for a place to relax and rejuvenate, check out Watercourse Way.
24. Stanford Shopping Center
Address: 660 Stanford Shopping Ctr, Palo Alto, CA 94304
Stanford Shopping Center is Northern California’s premier open-air shopping and dining destination, located between El Camino Real and Sand Hill Rd, adjacent to the world-renowned Stanford University Campus.
It is a great place to find upscale brands like Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Wilkes Bashford, and more than 140 world-class specialty stores, ranging from luxury brands to local favorites.
You can also enjoy a wide variety of restaurants and cafes. And be sure to take some time to enjoy the gardens and sculptures on the property – they’re truly breathtaking.
Whether you’re looking for a unique shopping experience or just someplace new to explore, Stanford Shopping Center is worth a visit.
25. Visit the Palo Alto children’s library – The first children’s library in the United States
Address: 1276 Harriet Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301
The Palo Alto children’s library is the first children’s library in the United States. The library offers a variety of books, comics, magazines, and DVDs.
The Children’s Library is a place where kids from birth to 5th grade can come and have fun in an inviting garden setting.
Computers are available for ages 11 and under. The library also has a play area and a computer lab.
So if you’re looking for a place to take your kids to enjoy some books, comics, and movies, the Palo Alto children’s library is the perfect place.
Facilities: Children’s Books, Comics, Magazines, DVDs, Play Area, Computer Lab
26. Sample delicious food at local restaurants and cafes
Palo Alto is a foodie paradise, with everything from gourmet restaurants to farmer’s markets. And no matter what your budget is, you’ll be able to find something to your taste.
For a quick and tasty bite, head to one of the many food trucks that line University Avenue.
Or, if you’re looking for something a little more upscale, Palo Alto has no shortage of options. Evvia Estiatorio, Bevri, Ettan, and Sundance are some of the top Palo Alto restaurants.
So come hungry and explore all the amazing food this city has to offer!26 Top things to do in Palo Alto, California #Travel #California #PaloAlto Click To Tweet
Where to stay in Palo Alto
If you are looking for a peaceful retreat with all the amenities that can make the most of your time, the Zen Hotel Palo Alto is the perfect place! This hotel offers eco-friendly rooms, free grab n’ go breakfast with coffee, and access to the fitness center. Also, it is conveniently located near Stanford University.
This charming boutique hotel located on El Camino Real provides easy access to highways 280 and 101, making transportation to and from the airport, as well as all of your favorite attractions, quick and convenient. Guests of The Palo Alto Inn have plenty of options when it comes to getting around town, including public transportation like Caltrain, buses, and bike paths.
Similar Articles from Travel Realizations
After reading about some of the top things to do in Palo Alto, California, we hope you’ll be inspired to visit this amazing city.
Palo Alto is a beautiful city with plenty to do and see. Stanford University’s campus is worth a visit, as is the Palo Alto Art Center.
There are also many lovely parks perfect for picnics, walks, and bike rides. Of course, no trip to Palo Alto would be complete without sampling some delicious food at local restaurants and cafes.
So, visit and explore everything Palo Alto has to offer!
Leave a comment below if you have any questions, or DM me on Instagram @travelrealizationsAlways bustling with energetic young minds who flock to the city in search of the next disruptive technology or scientific breakthrough, Palo Alto is at the center of one of the most consequential regions on earth #California… Click To Tweet
Sign up to get travel tips and advice for your next journey.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to 26 Top things to do in Palo Alto, California. You may also enjoy these other Bay Area and California travel guides.
- 31 Top things to do in Berkeley, California
- 21 Top things to do in San Ramon, California
- 40 Top Things to Do in San Jose – The Ultimate Bucket List
- 33 Top Things to do and see in Los Gatos, California
- 40 Top things to do in Carmel, California – The Ultimate Bucket List
- 50 Top things to do in Monterey, California – The Ultimate Bucket List
- 51 Top Things to do in Santa Cruz, California
- San Francisco Bay Area Gardens to Visit in Spring
- Bay Area weekend getaways on California Highway 1
- 30 Best Day Trips from San Jose, California
- Bay Area’s Best Redwood Hikes: A Comprehensive Guide
- Easy Day Trips from San Francisco
- Top 8 scenic drives in the San Francisco Bay Area
- Spring break in California – Best places to visit
- Winter in California – Weekend Getaways
- 35 Best Lakes in Northern California to add to Your Bucket List
- 36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites – A comprehensive guide!
- 50 Top California Landmarks You Should Visit
- 30 Romantic Places to Explore in the San Francisco Bay Area
If you need this travel guide to 26 Top things to do in Palo Alto, California, Pin It for later.